What to do when you have writer's block

Ways to just get over it
Posted Sunday, November 1, 2009 - 5:20am

When I sat down to get this story written, I thought everything was under control. I had my topic (this one was not my first to be sure) and had a few successful stories under my belt. I was excited. Before I go on, I must tell you of my writing process; I start with a topic, then research said topic for a few days, after extensive research (many pages of it) I write an outline, and begin an article.

Continuing, I had my topic, was excited and began my research. To my dismay, there wasn't any sufficient evidence to support (or beef up) my topic and my writing process crumbled. I was so frustrated that when I began to search for another topic, I could not find one to my liking and the dreaded "Demon of Writers" surfaced. I was possessed by writer's block.

Most have heard the expression "writer's block" before, but what does it mean and how does one "contract" it? Though writer's block is usually referred to as a "justification of laziness" or "a condition associated with professional writers" but, any and everyone can catch writer's block. The definition that works best for me is, "the inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing; normally temporary."

Though writer's block is "normally temporary," it can vary in strength, it can be minute (only lasting seconds, minutes or hours) or it can be intense such as when someone has been block for years; for example, author of Call it Sleep, Henry Roth, is the most extreme case of "blockage" that I know of, it took him 60 years to write a second book. Sometimes, writers are not able to rid themselves of writer's block, so they rid themselves of writing.

Writer's block is caught when problems bubble up from work (such as not finding enough evidence), you may run out of inspiration or you may have "bitten off more than you can chew" when your writing becomes confusion or it is beyond your ability to complete (you cannot successfully write a paper on engineering or quantum mechanics if you haven't a clue what they are in the first place.)

The more extreme blocks may be caused by certain events in your life (death in the family, a breakup, a failed class, etc.) or it can even get physical with illnesses or depression. Sometimes there is just too much pressure and stress ensues when you are trying your hardest to get your writing or something else done and it seems impossible.

According to Neurologist Alice Flaherty, your creative writing is a function of specific parts of your brain (not your heart or soul, sorry to put anyone down) and writer's block may be the product of your brain's activity being interrupted.

To conclude my anecdote (not my article), this is how I conquered writer's block. When I received my writer's block, I was frustrated and stressed. I came up with, at least, 10 topics but didn't like any (besides the lack of evidence on most of them.) I complained to my mom that I had serious writer's block and did not know what to do, I was trying to find ways to exorcise my writer's block when it hit me, "why not write my problem and pass it off as a story!"

I became excited again, mostly because I had a topic with evidence. This concludes my anecdote but, in case my solution doesn't help you, here's a more that can.

Everyone experiences writer's block at least once in their lifetime (this is my personal statistic) and I think that students are hit hardest by this, especially since 99.9% (again, my personal opinion) of college classes require an essay or four, so it is crucial for us to fight back writer's block (there should be a ribbon for this, maybe brown and green with a pen on it? There should just be awareness I think.) Because of this universal problem, authors upon authors have written books for the specific purpose of curing writer's block and here is what they advise: schedule some time to write every week, even if you do not have paper due. Write a basic outline of your story and explain the points to beef up your paper and organize or reorganize your notes and references.

Have brief periods of free writing where you can write whatever comes to mind or write something totally different from you are trying to write (i.e. if you write thrillers, try romance or if you are writing a history paper, write a movie review or summary.) Brainstorm before you begin writing to focus your thoughts and tie points together. If you have been trying for hours to think of something, try taking a break and meditate, listen to music, exercise, hang out with your friends, or take the day off (I suggest that you should be careful not to procrastinate when doing any of these.) Do something that will spark ideas and creativity such as watching a movie or play, reading or ask your friends, family, or professors for help. If you are artistic (or really bored) try drawing your story or search for inspirational pictures.

The "cure" that seems to work the best, and has been used over the centuries by famous and not so famous writers, is going out for some fresh air and taking a stroll down the street, along the beach, around the block, or across your apartment. A "multivitamin" that works wonders on almost any problem is always a good nights rest and for the college student, food. If none of the above seem to work well enough for you, there is always "The Force." N. J. Higham said, "Force yourself to write something, however clumsy it may be, for it is often easier to modify something you have written previously than to compose from scratch."

Filed under: viewpoints